LONDON — The scores of nine symphonies of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the composer's handwriting were auctioned today to an unknown buyer for a record $4.34 million.
The buyer bought the manuscripts, in one bound volume, from an anonymous private European collector for $3.95 million. Sotheby's auction house charged an additional 10% commission.
Sotheby's described the work as "the most important music manuscript to be auctioned this century."
The symphonies being in Mozart's hand made the volume especially appealing to collectors, it said.
The nine symphonies in the volume, numbers 22 to 30, represent almost one-quarter of Mozart's output of 41 numbered symphonies. They were written in the 1770s before Mozart was 20.
The three acknowledged masterpieces in the volume are No. 29 in A Major, No. 25 in G Minor and No. 28 in C.
The previous record price for an auctioned music manuscript was $544,500 for the working draft of Igor Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" in London in 1982. That price also included the 10% commission.
The bidding for the Mozart manuscript began at $840,000 and went up in $168,000 and $84,000 increments. The sale was over in three minutes.
The buyer, a man who gave his name as Kirkman, refused to say if he had bought the manuscript for himself.
"It could be for anyone," he said as he dashed out of the sale room, chased by reporters.
A spokeswoman for Sotheby's, who wasn't identified in accordance with British practice, said that the auction house didn't know who the buyer was and that it was trying to contact the man.
The symphonies appear to have been written as they were composed, not copied out afterward, and they were probably bound together by Mozart's father, Leopold, Sotheby's said.